Al Fornello da Ricci, awarded with a Michelin star, is located in Contrada Montevicoli in Ceglie and it is an institution, a must-go place. Known by gourmet connoisseurs, chefs and food experts, the place is a balanced mix of rustic and elegance with agricultural objects exposed, copper pots that spilled from the ceiling illuminating the environment, and an impressive central fireplace.
Rossella Ricci welcomes you, her sister Antonella works in the kitchen as chef with her husband Vinod Sookar who is from Mauritius. Their cuisine reflects the tradition, the classic cuisine of Puglia but with a modern touch, sometimes with an exotic touch thanks to Vinod. The quality of products is excellent. The level of the presentation of the dishes is very high.
As pre-appetizer, they serve you fried balls of bread with a rose wine on the house. Rossella Ricci takes the orders. You must try the legendary cube of leg of lamb cooked at low temperature with mashed potatoes cooked under the ashes. The menu changes periodically so do not give the cube of lamb for granted. We waited in vain the waiter in charge of wine. It was an oversight, a blunder that you do not expect from a Michelin restaurant .
The great appetizers of the house include a variety of dishes that reflect the tradition of Puglia cuisine. The fennel soufflé is delicious and fluffy. And yet chard soup, the cream of artichokes with ricotta cheese, the cup of corn and eggplants. The bacon served with the rest of the starters disappointed me. You would expect a typical capocollo produced in the area. Optionally, you can choose also a selection of cheeses, sheep, goat cheese from farms in the countryside of Ceglie served with fruit jam, salami or a fruit salad and dressing by Vinod.
Menu of the first courses varies: ‘girandola’ (pinwheel) pastry with wild beets, stracciatella cheese fondue with artichokes and black Celine, and drops of fresh ricotta with green cauliflower pesto, pork crackling and black truffle. The fresh pasta is homemade as tarallini that are served with bread. You have to try it with the extra virgin olive oil cold pressed by Cesare Fiorio and produced with olives of the farms Masseria Camarda. The homemade triddi pasta with cherry tomatoes, bacon and broccoli florets and fried breadcrumbs was excellent. The discordant note was the bacon though that you would be better matched if it was crunchy. It would have given more vitality to the pasta and to the cream of broccoli. Alternatively, the dressing without the element bacon would have been sufficiently good.
The meat is one of the second courses on the menu: grilled ‘La Granda’ beef with melted canestrato cheese and mixed fruit salad, rabbit stew with chunks of fresh mushrooms (cardoncelli, chanterelles and porcini), cherry tomatoes and Mediterranean herbs; lamb, homemade sausage and chicken livers, cooked ‘al fornello’ (charcoal fire), with roasted small potatoes, broiled beef rib steak served with warm salad of grilled cockles vinaigrette of lemon (for two people).
Try the desserts, served with a Moscato wine: the typical Ceglie cookie (made from almond paste and cherry jam or grape, with the fragrance of lemon or coffee, covered with a glaze made of sugar and cocoa) and its ‘soft and crunchy’ version; the puff pastry with cream, the soft chocolate fudge cake with white chocolate ganache and red fruits, the delicious soft ice-cream cone with dried figs, almonds and mulled wine, a soft cheese dessert with crushed almond and red fruits and vanilla black tea from Mauritius.
Wine chosen: Salice Salentino of Leone de Castris.
Reservations are recommended (especially in the summer).
Last visited on: January, 2014
AL FORNELLO DA RICCI
72013 Ceglie Messapica (Brindisi)
Tel. 0831 377104